Toton HS2 hub scrapped in favour of East Midlands Parkway and wider rail investment - including reopening Maid Marian Line

Plans for a HS2 hub station at Toton in Nottinghamshire have been dropped in favour of the high-speed railway line going to East Midlands Parkway instead.

By Andrew Topping
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 11:58 am
East Midlands Parkway Station.

In a long-awaited Government announcement on altered plans for rail travel in the East Midlands and northern England this morning, there will instead be a new main rail network station in Toton.

But the Toton station will not act as a high-speed hub for the multi-billion-pound HS2 project as originally planned.

HS2 lines will instead go to a new base at East Midlands Parkway via a light railway track, similar to a tram.

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It comes as part of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning, which revealed drastically reduced commitments to the Eastern Leg of HS2, linking Birmingham and Leeds, via the East Midlands..

Members of the Conservative Government say the changes still amount to a massive investment which will dramatically improve transport and wider infrastructure in Nottinghamshire and the region, more quickly than HS2.

But critics say the changes mean Nottinghamshire will miss out compared with other areas and fear its economy could be left behind.

The HS2 high-speed rail project, which has been decades in the making, initially proposed a line from London to Birmingham, before breaking off into a ‘Y’ shape at the West Midlands city.

It would then travel towards Manchester, Phase 2a, and Leeds, Phase 2b, passing through the East Midlands at Toton on its route towards West Yorkshire.

The first two phases have received an almost full commitment, but the Government’s announcement has confirmed plans to scale back the Birmingham-Leeds line.

Two smaller and separate high-speed lines will now be created, with one connecting Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway in Rushcliffe.

The second high-speed connection will be built between Sheffield and Leeds, leaving roughly a 50-mile black hole in the middle of what was planned to be a single HS2 line.

Initial Department for Transport projections suggested HS2 could reduce journey times from Toton to London down to just 51 minutes.

At present, the quickest train from Nottingham to the capital takes almost two hours, with HS2 trains travelling at a routine speed of 205mph.

It is unclear whether times will be similar from the East Midlands Parkway hub, but Mr Shapps said the new line to Birmingham is expected to cut travel time between the two Midlands cities from 72 to 26 minutes.

However, concerns have been raised about the IRP omitting the Toton hub in favour of East Midlands Parkway.

Years of planning has gone into the Toton hub, with Nottinghamshire Council spending £22 million allocating land to unlock thousands of jobs, homes and employment space.

The authority also approved a £30m link road to serve the development plans earlier this year.

But despite not featuring in the high-speed plans, the Government has committed to investing in a railway station at Toton.

This will connect to the reopened Maid Marian Line – closed to passengers during the 1960s Beeching Cuts – to provide passenger connectivity with places like Kirkby, Selston and Pinxton.

It comes alongside a commitment to extending the Robin Hood Line to Warsop, Edwinstowe and Ollerton, a project long campaigned for by politicians including the Government’s chief whip and Sherwood MP Mark Spencer.

This would connect with the Maid Marian Line in Ashfield to reach the Toton station, and eventually on to HS2 via the light rail connection.

Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader, believes the East Midlands has come out as the “big winner” from the IRP – despite previously saying it would be ‘very disappointing’ if the HS2 line to Toton was shelved.

Mr Bradley said: “We’ve seen a massive commitment to the East Midlands.

“The commitment to a station at Toton has been a huge priority for us as that’s our hub to create tens of thousands of jobs.

“The package of transport links around it, with the Maid Marian Line, the Robin Hood Line, road links and tram links, will get people into those jobs.

“That’s a massive opportunity for us over the next eight-10 years to really boost people’s life chances in the region.

“It’s the start of our really positive package of the freeport, the development corporation and devolution, and amounts to £10 billion to £12bn investment into the region.”

The IRP also includes the full electrification of the Midland Main Line – between London St Pancras, East Midlands Parkway, Nottingham and Sheffield – to reduce journey times for passengers.

However, the overall plan has been met with a lukewarm reception by opposition politicians.

Coun Jason Zadrozny, Ashfield Council leader, welcomed the Maid Marian Line news but criticised the overall HS2 plans.

He said: “Reopening lines like the Maid Marian Line to passengers is incredibly cost-effective and will see between 1.1m and 1.4m rail journeys per year.

“This didn’t stop the Conservatives at County Hall taking a £22m gamble buying land in and around Toton, on the basis the Prime Minister would keep a promise that has unravelled fast.

“It’s HS2 for half the UK, but sod all for the rest.

“They talk about levelling up, yet this looks like it will further exacerbate issues in Nottinghamshire and put us further behind the rest of the UK.”

The DfT says its IRP will improve journey times and capacity ‘from London and across the Pennines’ and ‘strengthen connections between major cities in the North and Midlands’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This is the biggest transport investment programme in a century, delivering meaningful transport connections for more passengers across the country, more quickly – with both high-speed journeys and better local services, it will ensure no town or city is left behind.”

In total, the IRP will cost the Government £96bn – including commitments to major infrastructure, local service upgrades and faster journeys – which ministers say will happen “up to 10 years earlier” than originally planned.